Death of Presbyterian minister Rev Stewart Jones in freak diving accident leaves community in shock
The death of a prominent clergyman who died in a diving accident has been met with shock.
Rev Stewart Jones, who was minister of Donemana Presbyterian Church in Tyrone, is believed to have been hit by a freak wave while diving off the Co Donegal coast.
Originally from South Armagh, he was married with three children.
Rev Jones, who was in his 50s, was a qualified diving instructor and an instructor in first aid.
He had been minister at Donemana Presbyterian for a number of years. He was also the Presbyterian chaplain at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry.
Alan Holden, the congregational secretary at Donemana, said there was a sense of shock among worshippers.
"The news broke yesterday evening – it is very sad news for our community," he said.
"He was a very popular minister.
"He loved diving, he was very much into the sport. It just seems to have been a tragic accident."
Rev Jones got into difficulty around 4.30pm on Saturday at St John's Point, a remote strip of land stretching out from southern Donegal.
A second man from Derry, who also got into difficulties, was taken to hospital but later released.
It is understood the pair were on their second dive when they reached the surface and were suddenly hit by a freak wave.
Rev Jones was brought to shore by the second diver, and the local coastguard and Bundoran lifeboat were tasked to the scene.
Ian Scott from Malin Head Coastguard said CPR had been carried out on Rev Jones.
"Sadly, despite administering CPR from when the diver was recovered until his arrival at hospital, the man died," he said.
Rev Jones's wife Patricia and three daughters, Esther, Rachel and Anna, were last night being comforted by relatives.
Tommy Allen, who is clerk of session at Donemana, said the community was devastated. "Rev Jones was much-loved in the neighbourhood," he said. "We're still trying to understand what happened. He was a qualified diver but you never know what is around the corner."
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Dr Michael Barry, said he was shocked by the tragedy.
"Stewart served his congregations with great enthusiasm and complete dedication," he said.
"I assure Patricia, the family circle and indeed the congregation of Donemana of the prayerful support of many throughout the Presbyterian Church in the days that lie ahead."
Apart from his work as a minister, Rev Jones was a published author and his works included Israel in the Carter Years and British Policy in the Middle East.
Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy, who went to school with Rev Jones in south Armagh, said: "He was from the Bessbrook area and he was a lovely fella, a very fine fella.
"He was academically gifted and very clever."